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Joshua 7-8: Consequences and What They Teach Us Print E-mail
Joshua
Sunday, 02 March 2008

We live in a culture that has no understanding of consequences.  We are raising a generation that is losing their grasp of cause and effect.  They begin with simple disobedience to their parents with no consequences, then they move to disobedience to teachers or other authorities with no consequences, and before long they want sex, and addiction, and sin with no consequences.  Their logic makes sense to some degree: ĎIf I get away with it in the home, then why not the school, or the world?í  Of course the logic is flawed because sin without consequences is not real.  Yet, this is the conclusion that our culture wants to draw and wants to believe in, even though they get harsh reminders that it is not true.  How do we as Christians respond to this and keep ourselves from rushing headlong into these errors?  What should we believe and teach about consequences to sin?

Joshua 7 begins by telling us that there is sin in the camp of Israel.  Look at verse 1 with me.  As we will see later in the story, Achan has sinned against the Lord by keeping some of the plunder of Jericho that was supposed to be devoted to destruction.  Joshua had warned against this in 6:18.  Look at that verse with me.  According to what Joshua says here, if anyone chose to keep some of the things that were supposed to be devoted to destruction, then that would make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it.  So, after reading verse 1 in light of 6:18, we have to ask the all important question: will the Lord really punish Israel for disobedience?  Will there be consequences for Achanís sin?  The rest of chapter 7 will answer these questions decisively.  Letís look at it and note the various consequences of Achanís sin.

Consequences for the sin of Achan (ch. 7)

First, we see Israelís defeat at Ai.  Look at 7:2-5 with me.  Joshua once again sends out spies and they return by telling him that only a few thousand men will be needed to defeat the city of Ai.  I should note at this point that the people were not completely innocent in this whole story.  Their arrogance is hard to miss.  Of course one could argue that this was just great confidence in the Lord, but since the Lord is not even mentioned or consulted in these verses, it seems more likely that the people share some of the fault for this defeat.  Yet, when the Lord speaks to Joshua, the specific reason He gives for the defeat is the sin of Achan (see 7:10ff). 

Thus, we learn from this that if we think that we are the only ones who have to deal with the consequences of our sin, then we are greatly mistaken.  Divorce and drunkenness attack families and communities.  Lack of discipline is passed on from one generation to the next.  We must come to grips with the fact that our sin impacts others.  Granted, the covenant community of Israel does not exactly parallel the Church due to our being under the new covenant (see Jeremiah 33:27ff), but that does not mean that the consequences to our sin only involves us.  It is a hard but important reality and explains Paulís and others concern for the Church to faithfully deal with sin (see 1 Corinthians 5).

Second, we see Joshuaís doubt.  Look at 7:6-9.  I do not think that it is unfair to say that Joshua is struggling at this point.  The defeat at Ai was extremely hard on him.  Now part of this could be explained by poor leadership and not consulting God before the battle, but we have to see that it is Achanís sin which has led to this.  Joshua does not understand the whole situation and comes to some grave conclusions about what God is doing.  He sees this defeat as God going back on His promise to give them the land.  He wished that they would have stayed on the other side of the Jordan.  Apparently, he is not alone in this questioning of God, for the text says that the elders of Israel were with him.  Because Achan hid his sin from Joshua, Israelís leader was struggling to trust in the Lord at this point.  At the end of his prayer he asks God to remember Israel and to fight for His own name.  When God explains the situation, Joshua will understand that He has been defending His name and keeping His promise to Israel that if they disobeyed they would be defeated.

Third, we see Achanís destruction.  Look at 7:10-15.  The rest of chapter 7 tells of Joshuaís and Israelís obedience to the Lordís commands here.  They follow His instructions and discover that Achan is the one who has sinned.  When confronted, Achan admits to taking a beautiful cloak and some money that he has hidden in his tent.  The people search and find the devoted things just as Achan had described.  Then comes the hard part.  Just as they had devoted the people of Jericho to destruction and will devote the people of Ai in chapter 8, they here devote Achan and his family.  As with the others, this is a difficult passage that teaches us about Godís great holiness and our ugly sin. 

We laugh about sin too much.  We explain it away to easily.  We play with it like we can control it.  All the while, we forget the holiness of our God and His anger that burns against it.  We neglect the fact that it will destroy us and drag us to Hell.  We look right past the sacrifice of Christ and pretend that our sins are no big deal.  We ignore the warning in the story of Achan and believe that our sins have no consequences.  Brothers and sisters, we cannot afford to make these mistakes.  May God stop us in our tracks with the story of Achan and show us the horrible consequences of our sin.

Besides what we have already said, what lessons are we to learn from Achanís sin?  How did Israel move forward and how are we to move forward after such consequences?

Lessons learned from the consequences (ch. 8)

First, we must accept the consequences for our sins and return to obedience.  I really think that this is the main lesson for all of chapters 7 and 8.  Starting with the stoning of Achan and his family we see Israel accepting the consequences and returning to obedience.  They now know why they were defeated at Ai and they are told what to do about it.  Once they deal with the sin in the camp, they return obediently taking the land.  If you notice in chapter 8, the structure of command and obedience returns.  The Lord commands Joshua and the people to take Ai (8:1-2) and Joshua and the people obey (8:3ff).  This is a lesson that the Church must learn.  It is a paradigm that we must understand.  When the Lord shows us sin in the camp, whatever that sin may be, we must accept the consequences and return to obedience.  Granted, our instructions do not involve stoning anyone, but they often do involve difficult action.  I mean just admitting that we are wrong is hard enough, but to then take the necessary action to correct the wrong and return to obedience is often very difficult. 

I remember the story of a lady who was on death row in Texas for murder.  She was converted in prison and many began to plead for her release.  Obviously, there is more to the story and the situation than I am relaying, but the thought that she should be released because she is a Christian is just wrong.  Christians, if anybody, should willingly accept the consequences of their sins.  The forgiveness that we receive through Christís work does not negate consequences.  Rather, it gives us the strength and the desire for the sake of Godís holy name to walk through whatever consequences that He deems necessary.  A sign of true repentance is a willingness to accept difficult consequences (which I believe, if I remember correctly, is how the lady in Texas responded even though others were seeking her pardon).  The glorious good news that Jesus has faced the judgment for our sin should equip us to face any consequences that He deems necessary. 

Second, we must be intentional and deliberate in our obedience to His Word.  Again, this simply builds off of the main lesson above, but it needs to be mentioned.  The instructions for the battle of Ai (as with Jericho) were detailed, but Israel obeyed them completely.  They were careful to do all that the Lord had commanded them.  Likewise, Joshua leads the people in renewing the covenant at the end of the chapter 8.  He builds an altar where they offer sacrifices to the Lord.  Following the instructions of Moses (see Deuteronomy 27:1-8), he has half the people stand on Mount Ebal (representing the curses) and half of the people stand on Mount Gerizim (representing the blessings), while he reads to them the entire Law of Moses particularly noting Godís curses and blessings for obeying the Law (this is why I wanted to read all of the text this morning while we stood). 

Can you imagine the visible illustration that God was giving Israel on that day?  I think we can discern from this the clear connection between obedience and attention to the Word.  God wants His people to listen to and obey His Word.  This is why we come together week after week to listen to the Word of God and to sing the Word of God and to pray the Word of God.  We must be deliberate and intentional in our obedience and application of the Bible as individuals and as the people of God.

Third, we must once again expect the Lordís blessings for obedience to His Word.  Notice the contrast between 7:6-9, where Joshua is struggling to trust in the Lord, and 8:1 and 7, where the Lord promises victory and Joshua firmly believes in that promise.  We must move forward in obedience trusting that the Lord will ultimately give us victory.  This victory may not always look like what we expect, but it will be victory nonetheless if we are being obedient to His Word.  Some of you may have noticed in 8:2 that the Lord granted permission for Israel to take of the spoils this time.  He knew what they needed and would provide for them as they obeyed.  When it is necessary for us to face difficult consequences for our sin, we need to remember that the Lord will bless us for our return to obedience.

For believers, the lessons of Joshua 7-8 are vital.  We need to fear and face the consequences of our sin.  I say fear because such consequences should encourage obedience.  If we have no fear of consequences because we figure, ĎJesus paid for my sins so I can live however I want,í then we have greatly misunderstood the cross and may be showing ourselves to not be believers at all.  Rather, the story of Achan and Ananais and Sapphira in Acts 5 (as well as others) should motivate us to obey the Lord at all costs.  We need to always remember that obedience will cost less than disobedience (even though the price of obedience is often very great). 

Again, I say we should face our consequences in the great strength that Christ provides.  We take the consequences because our King has taken the judgment in our place.  Likewise, many people (believers and unbelievers) often think to themselves: ĎI have sinned so greatly that I have completely ruined my life.í  Yet, such a conclusion completely ignores the cross.  Because of what Christ has done, we can be forgiven just as Israel was forgiven.  We can be restored just as Israel was restored.  If you are here and you have not repented of your sins and trusted in Christ, let me be as clear as I can: if you remain as you are, then you will not only face many terrible consequences for your sins but you will also face judgment in Hell.  Thatís why I plead with you to turn from your sins and trust in Christ.  May you know His victory over judgment and His grace and strength to face consequences and may you join with the rest of us in rejoicing over what Christ has done for us!  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 March 2008 )

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